In what can only be regarded as an insane, utterly grotesque abuse of power, the Nevada State Athletic Commission handed out one of the most severe punishments in its history - a 5 year suspension for MMA fighter Nick Diaz who tested positive for marijuana metabolites following his fight with Anderson Silva.
Let's repeat that - a professional fighter's entire career has been ruined because he smoked weed, a substance that does not enhance performance in any way and is also legal in the state of Nevada. Bizarrely, Anderson Silva was handed out a paltry one year suspension for taking the actual performance enhancing drugs Drostanolone and Androstane.
The ruling is ridiculous for a number of reasons, the primary being the banning of marijuana in the first place. Marijuana is categorically not a performance enhancing drug. In an article for ESPN, Dr. Gary Wadler, a New York University School of Medicine professor and lead author of the book "Drugs and the Athlete" had the following to say about the effects of marijuana:
Impairs skills requiring eye-hand coordination and a fast reaction time
Reduces motor coordination, tracking ability and perceptual accuracy
Impairs concentration, and time appears to move more slowly
Skill impairment may last up to 24 to 36 hours after usage
Reduces maximal exercise capacity resulting in increased fatiguability
Marijuana has no performance-enhancing potential
While all of the above effects sound great for those looking to escape the realities of modern capitalism and our relentless work culture, they don't do much for a professional fighter engaging in one of the most dangerous sports on the planet.
From a technical point of view, there was certainly cause for some sort of punishment to be handed down. This was Diaz’s third violation in the state of Nevada for using marijuana, and the commission has repeatedly warned him about this to no avail. However, even if you concede Diaz should be punished for failing to adhere to the state's regulations, the 5 year ban is still preposterous. As Vice pointed out:
Earlier this year the NSAC adopted sentencing guidelines to create consistency and predictability for doping offenders. A third violation for marijuana is not the egregious penalty which calls for a lifetime ban as Nevada acknowledges with their guidelines setting out the following in black and white:
"3rd offense: 36 months, 60‐75% of purse"
There has been no explanation as to why the commission has not followed its own guidelines.
Diaz is 32 years old and has a style of fighting that isn't suited to longevity. Diaz is a pressure fighter and brawler (albeit a very skilled one), and the punishment he tends to take in fights means he has at the most 2 - 3 years left at the elite level. At 37, he would be far removed from his athletic prime and would not be able to compete at the highest levels of the sport.
And thus The Nevada State Athletic Commission has effectively ended Nick Diaz's career - a travesty that is provoking huge backlash in the MMA community and a drive to exonerate Diaz via a petition to the White House. UFC commentator Joe Rogan called the decision a "callous, idiotic and sickening" abuse of power, while the UFC's biggest star Ronda Rousey stated that the results of the test are irrelevant anyway.
"I’m against them testing for any weed at all," said Rousey at a UFC press conference recently. "It’s not a performance-enhancing drug. It has nothing to do with athletic competition, and it’s only tested for political reasons so they say, ‘Oh, it’s only for your safety so you’re not hurting yourself when you’re out there.’ So why don’t they test for all the other things that could possibly hurt us that we could be under the influence of while we’re out there?
“There’s no reason for them to be testing for weed. In athletics, the beautiful thing about it is it separates everything from politics. It shouldn’t be involved at all.”
Amen to that.